Winning in 20 innings by using 24 Mets who accumulated 9 hits despite batting against 2 Cardinal position players for the last 3 of those innings has generated some truly deep thinking among our readers, as evidenced by our unusually busy (for a Sunday) comments section and in-box. It’s great stuff, particularly the following, an e-mail to Faith and Fear from one Ben Nathan.
Surely there can be only one.
Dear Greg and Jason:
I’m a 16 year old diehard reader whom you’ve never met, but I want to share with you a couple of connections I made with last night’s game:
The first is that the game bore a striking resemblance to World War I. Both were epic monstrosities that robbed every witness and participant of his livelihood.
Both ended on account of utter fatigue.
Both began with promises of glory (Johan Santana vs. “The War to End All Wars”) and ended with shattered illusions (Mets’ failure to score vs. Felipe Lopez/Trench Warfare).
Both affairs were finally mitigated by a young, goofy upstart arriving upon the scene to bail out his misbegotten elders (Big Pelf/U.S.A.).
And finally, Jerry Manuel is Woodrow Wilson, a well-meaning intellectual who is nonetheless completely aloof and ineffectual.
My second connection comes in the form of a paraphrased quote from Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea:
But The Mets are not made for defeat.
The Mets can be destroyed but not defeated.
Thanks, and here’s to nine (nine!) innings of peace at 8 PM.
Benjamin Joshua Nathan
Lost here in the, uh, excitement of the multiple innings Saturday night was the no-hitter thrown versus the Braves by Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies. Colorado has a no-hitter. We don’t. If you had told me on April 5, 1993, as their ragtag ballclub took the field for the very first time at Shea Stadium that they’d have a no-hitter before we did, I wouldn’t have believed you.
If you told me they’d have a no-hitter before we would play another 20-inning game, I might not have believed you either.
Never mind that they’d be in the playoffs (1995) before we would return to them (1999).
Last night, incidentally, was the first time the Braves were no-hit since Randy Johnson pitched a perfect game against them in 2004. On that very night, at virtually the precise moment Johnson was striking out Eddie Perez for his 27th consecutive out, Cliff Floyd was driving home Karim Garcia in a 5-4 walkoff win against Jason Isringhausen of the — who else? — the Cardinals. Nice symmetry, I’d say.
Prior to last night, the longest game the Mets had won was 19 innings, which happened twice. The most famous of them was the second one, clearly the most insane game the Mets ever played, Mets 16 Braves 13, July 4 and 5, 1985, which we memorialized here for all its rain-soaked and endless glory on its 20th anniversary.
Less instantly recalled is the first Met 19-inning win, played at Los Angeles on May 24 and 25, 1973. The Mets trailed 3-1 before a run-scoring Buddy Harrelson double in the 7th and a George Theodore RBI single in the eighth off 1969 Orioles reliever Pete Richert, the guy who gave up J.C. Martin’s extraordinarily well-placed bunt that won Game Four. That made it 3-3 for quite a while.
Much as the 19-inning game of 1985 was started by ace Doc Gooden and the 20-inning game of 2010 was started by ace Johan Santana, the 19-inning game of 1973 was started by ace Tom Seaver, proving it always helps to have your ace going in the literally big games. Tom pitched 6 so-so innings, however — don’t tell him 3 earned runs in 6 innings pitched is a “quality start” — and it was the Mets bullpen that ensured history that night and morning (game over at 4:47 AM EDT) by delivering 13 scoreless frames. George Stone’s first Met decision came that night, from having pitched innings 13 through 18, scattering 4 hits and 2 walks, twice inducing L.A. into stranding the potential winning Dodger run at third.
If only George Stone had been the subject of a much-needed managerial decision in the same state later that same year, but never mind that right now.
In the middle of the cascade of bullpen heroes registering bullpen zeroes stood Tug McGraw, who pitched from the 8th through the 12th. He walked 5 and surrendered 4 hits, but he allowed no runs and kept the game going into the wee small hours. Tug even managed a 10th-inning, two-out single off fellow screwballer Jim Brewer and advanced to second on an error by shortstop Bill Russell. With three Dodger runners cut down at home, his night wasn’t neat — Tug’s 1973 wouldn’t be for several more months — but, along with Phil Hennigan in the 7th and Stone during his six innings, it kept the Mets in the game long enough to score 4 runs in the top of the 19th, Rusty Staub, Ken Boswell and Ed Kranepool driving them in. Jim McAndrew picked up the save with a scoreless bottom of the 19th.
As with last night in St. Louis, that night (and morning) in Los Angeles was a full team effort, but I wanted to underscore Tug’s role since today, April 18, was the date in 1965 when Tug McGraw first pitched for the New York Mets. Manager Casey Stengel inserted him in the eighth inning of the fifth game of the season, the Mets trailing the Giants at Shea 4-1. Relieving Jack Fisher (who had just relieved Al Jackson), Tug came on with the bases loaded and one out to face pinch-hitter and future Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda.
Tug got Cepeda looking on strikes and then opposing pitcher (and future Met teammate) Bob Shaw to ground out to second baseman Bobby Klaus. With that, Frank Edwin McGraw was a big leaguer…a big leaguer who had gotten the Mets out of a bases-loaded jam. Stengel pinch-hit Billy Cowan for him in the bottom of the eighth, and the Mets wound up losing 4-1, but McGraw had officially made the first of the many marks he would make as a Met.
It’s exactly 45 years since No. 45 first took the mound for the Mets. And on the day after the Mets secured their first marathon win that ever ran longer than the 19-inning victory of 1973, our friend Sharon Chapman — who is diligently raising funds for the Tug McGraw Foundation to help fight brain cancer and other terrible diseases — ran the Rutgers Half Marathon in just over two hours and thirty minutes (or 6 innings in modern baseball terms).
Congratulations to Sharon, whose wrist was banded appropriately for the occasion. If you’d like to contribute to the outstanding cause of the Tug McGraw Foundation, please visit Sharon’s fundraising site here.